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Biden announces new plan to cancel student debt at Madison Area Technical College on April 8, 2024.

Biden unveils new student debt relief program in Madison visit

In a Monday visit to Madison, President Joe Biden unveiled a new program to eliminate student debt for millions of Americans.

President Joe Biden announced a new plan to lower student loan debt for more than 30 million Americans during a visit to Madison on Monday.

Biden spoke to local political leaders, students and other guests from the Madison Area Technical College Truax campus. 

“While a college degree is still a ticket to the middle class, that ticket is becoming much too expensive,” he said. 

The outlined plan would eliminate accrued interest — or interest that has not yet been paid out — for 23 million borrowers. It would also cancel the full amount of student debt for over 4 million borrowers and provide at least $5,000 in debt relief.

No application for debt relief will be necessary for those covered under this plan. Those included can expect to see debt relief as early as this fall, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Monday.

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UW-Madison graduates speak about their support of Biden's new student loan debt and their experience being first generation college students on April 8, 2024.

In remarks, Biden outlined the plan’s five major actions, including canceling up to $20,000 in interest for any borrower who owes more now then when they started paying loans. 

Borrowers who started repaying undergraduate loans 20 years ago or graduate loans 25 years ago are also included, as well as borrowers facing financial hardships and those who the DOE determines were “cheated by universities.” This category includes students who were part of low-value loan programs that were denied recertification for the Federal Student Aid program because they took advantage of students.. 

“It’s only in the interest of America that we do it,” Biden said. “By freeing millions of Americans from this crushing student debt it means they can finally get on with their lives.”. 

Biden also announced $200 million for the Department of Labor to use for grants to registered apprenticeship programs. 

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In a nod to his ongoing presidential campaign, Biden also said he would attempt to make community college tuition-free if elected, reaffirming a campaign promise first made in March.

Melissa Byrne, executive director of We The 45 Million, a student loan debt advocate organization, praised Biden’s plan in a statement Monday that was released as part of the White House press release. 

“We celebrate President Biden’s steadfastness in tackling the problem of student loan debt,” Byrne said. “After public comment and the final rule is published, around 30 million Americans and their families will know what it’s like to see government work for working people by getting some or all of their debt canceled.”

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President Joe Biden walks to greet Wisconsin elected officials after deplaning at the Dane County Regional Airport on Monday, April 8, 2024 in Madison, Wisconsin.

New program comes after SCOTUS block

Biden’s new approach to canceling student loan debt comes after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down his previous student loan debt relief program in June 2023. 

The previous executive order, intended to give relief of up to $10,000 in student debt for over 40 million low- and middle-class borrowers making less than $125,000, was struck down after the Supreme Court ruled it an overreach of executive power. 

Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions Secretary Cheryll Olson-Collins said in a November webinar over 700,000 students are loan borrowers in Wisconsin, totaling $23.2 billion in overall debt.

In Wisconsin, the amount of debt forgiven from an income-driven repayment plan is considered gross income and is taxed. But at a federal level, the amount of debt forgiven is not taxable as modified by the American Rescue Plan Act, according to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

Anti-war groups protest Biden’s visit

Outside of the Madison gym where Biden was speaking, pro-Palestine protesters heckled the president. “Joe stop the Gazacide,” one sign read.  

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Protestors hold a sign reading "Joe Stop the Gazacide" on the street of Biden's visit on April 8, 2024.

The “uninstructed” vote trailed Biden in the Democratic primary as part of a recent movement to protest against Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war and could pose a threat to his margins in key Midwest swing states ahead of the 2024 presidential election. 

Over 48,000 Wisconsin voters, or 8.3%, chose the “uninstructed delegate” option in Wisconsin’s April 2 election, more than double the 20,682-vote margin Biden won Wisconsin by in 2020. 

Biden's visit to Madison comes just weeks after Vice President Kamala Harris visited Madison and less than a month after Biden visited Milwaukee to tout a $3.3 billion investment to reconnect and rebuild communities damaged by past infrastructure projects in more than 40 states. 

Biden will travel to Chicago, Illinois for a fundraising event Monday evening following his Madison visit. 

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Annika Bereny

Annika Bereny is the Special Pages Editor for the Daily Cardinal and specializes in campus reporting. Follow her on Twitter at @annikabereny.

Gabriella Hartlaub

Gabriella Hartlaub is an arts editor for the Daily Cardinal. She also reports state politics and life & style stories. Follow her on Twitter at @gabihartlaub.

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